ABILENE – ACU head baseball coach Britt Bonneau on Monday unveiled one of the most challenging schedules of his tenure as the Wildcats will face a 56-game slate of opponents that finished a combined 163 games over .500 in 2016.
Bonneau enters his 21st season as the head coach with a career mark of 722-435-1 and will lead the Wildcats into their final season of transition to full NCAA Division I status in 2017. In their final season before they’re eligible for either Southland Conference or NCAA post-season tournament action, the Wildcats will play a schedule that features three separate conference champions, five opponents that reached an NCAA regional and one College World Series team (TCU).
The Wildcats’ 21 opponents in 2017 combined to finish a staggering 708-545 in 2016 (.565 winning percentage) with 14 teams winning at least 30 games and four winning at least 40 with TCU and Texas A&M each winning 49. Seven of ACU’s Southland Conference opponents won at least 30 games in 2016 with two of those teams – conference tournament champion Sam Houston State (42) and NCAA regional participant and league runner-up Southeastern Louisiana (40) – having won at least 40 games.
“This schedule is one that I believe puts us in the best position to mature as an NCAA Division I program,” Bonneau said. “Our non-conference schedule is filled with quality opponents, and those games will give us the opportunity to elevate our RPI (Ratings Power Index). This schedule will be a challenge to our team, and we’re looking forward to the competition ahead of us.”
For the first time in program history, ACU will play a team from the Big 10 (Michigan State), and a team from the Big East (Creighton). Other first time opponents are North Dakota State (Summit League) and Oregon State (Pac 12).
Michigan State will be in Abilene for a four-game series (Feb. 17-19) to open the series, and the Bison from NDSU will follow the next weekend (Feb. 24-26) for a three-game set at Crutcher Scott Field. Creighton will be in Abilene March 3-5 for a three-game set as the Wildcats play their first 15 games in Abilene. The Wildcats will play 30 of their 56 games at Crutcher Scott Field where they are 560-249-1 since it opened in 1991.
ACU will host Southland Conference foes Incarnate Word (March 10-12), Sam Houston State (March 31-April 2), McNeese (April 7-9), Lamar (Apri 21-23) and Northwestern State (May 12-14). The Wildcats will be on the road for conference games at New Orleans (March 17-19), Stephen F. Austin (March 24-26), Houston Baptist (April 13-15), Central Arkansas (May 5-7) and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (May 18-20).
Big 12 Tournament champion TCU is back on the Wildcats’ schedule with games scheduled for March 21 in Abilene and May 2 in Fort Worth. ACU will also go back to Blue Bell Park in College Station on April 11 to take on Texas A&M, the defending Southeastern Conference Tournament champion. ACU will also take on Texas-Arlington (March 8 in Abilene and March 15 in Arlington), Dallas Baptist (April 25 in Abilene and May 16 in Dallas) and Kansas State (three-game set April 28-30 in Manhattan, Kan.) in non-conference games.
ACU will close its season with a four-game set at Oregon State (May 25-28) in Corvallis, Ore. The Beavers have won 24 conference championships in their illustrious program’s history, and won back-to-back College World Series championships in 2013 and 2014. The Wildcats and Beavers have never met on the diamond, and that trip will mark ACU’s first venture to the Pacific Northwest.
The only non-Division I opponent on the Wildcats’ schedule is Texas-Permian Basin, which plays in the NCAA Division II Heartland Conference. The Falcons will be in Abilene for single games on Feb. 28 and March 28.